Are we missing a trick with grammar schools?

(85 Posts)
mam29 Tue 09-Apr-13 12:21:05

Always a a tricky topic but struck how many people in public eye say grammar school changed their lives for the better.


Toby young
most of bbc newsreaders John Sopel. Andrew neil.
Various other mps who all went to grammar schools and are proud.

My nan had 5kids and only went to grammar and had the best jobs.

I know some say they unfair but do wonder if they in someway improved social mobility.

Of course its changed today.

Theres very few grammar schools none here or where I grew up.

Now seen preserve of middle class wanting private education cheap.

That the child has to be tutored within inch of life to get in and that those who went prep had advantage as state does not prepare for 11+.

To me it seems vastly unfair that they exist but not in every area.

Wondering if comprehensive is a failed idea and that they should have kept grammars but reformed secondary moderns,

Would all the people named above be where they are now if they went to comp?

What is it that grammar schools do that comps dont?

Theres that old chestnut a bright child will do well where ever they go.

Do the new grammar entrants today especially in super selectives need to be brighter than the kids who passed in the 50,s?.

muminlondon Sun 14-Apr-13 14:59:49

There have been repeated surveys that conclude comprehensive educated pupils do better at university or can achieve a good degree with lower grades at A-level. Comp sixth forms are often smaller and there can still be timetabling problems or teacher shortages. That's why there is a fair access policy in university admissions.

'A comprehensive school student with A-level grades BBB for example is likely to perform as well in their university degree as an independent or grammar school student with A-level grades ABB or AAB.'

At the same time comp educated pupils are less likely to apply for the most competitive universities. The new measures in the A-level league tables of 'facilitating subjects' has been nicknamed the 'Abacc' so it will have an effect on choices, although perversely it may lead to some subjects (like Music or RE) getting dropped in small sixth forms where there is less demand.

Scrazy Sun 14-Apr-13 14:35:26

The comprehensive school I mentioned isn't predominantly educating working class pupils. It's in a nice area and a mixture, many pupils come from professional households and the sixth form has pupils from the local indie school who want to take A levels. I'm sure there are comprehensive's with much better results though.

muminlondon Sun 14-Apr-13 08:48:25

glaurung thanks for that link re progress of high achievers, really interesting. I read that Michael Gove had asked Ofsted to investigate this too - that blog suggests a report will be published April/May so the analysis is really topical.

Interesting that sponsored academies see progress levels 7-8% below the average (even taking account starting from a lower base). And also that on EBacc, the percentage of successful selective school high attainers has fallen by 0.2%, but in comprehensives school has increased by 1.4%, so the gap is closing.

However, the proposed changes to the national curriculum will redefine attainment levels, so expected progress may be harder to compare year on year (for the next government). Already, the English GCSE regrading makes comparison with last year difficult. And the biggest variation in progress is for middle attainers - still the more intractable problem.

LaVolcan Sat 13-Apr-13 23:55:31

The trouble is, we don't even know what people mean by Comprehensives. In some parts of the country they genuinely are. In other parts it's a euphemism for a secondary modern, so you are just not comparing like with like, and this is before you throw academies and free schools into the mix.

Measuring progress against ability bands sounds like a good idea.

muminlondon Sat 13-Apr-13 23:47:17

The ground is shifting all the time with 'comprehensives' though - my point is that the 'let's have new grammar schools' debate is irrelevant because the school system is already too segregated and autonomous for a new/old division of comprehensive/grammar to be applied on top. In general it is obvious that a critical mass of bright children will generally result in better academic results. (I still think it is interesting that a Muslim all-ability school in a deprived area gets Ebacc results and grades for its top set that beat the best grammar schools though - it can't be explained by numbers on FSM).

But all sorts of things are changing with the league tables too - equivalents are getting knocked out, even the 5 GCSE measure is proposed to go, leaving measures of progress against ability bands. So where schools may have focused on C/D borderline before, because that was the measure, they will be expected to push all ability bands now.

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 20:15:41

My dd's grammar school has near perfect GCSE scores- but not very good EbACC scores. That is because they only do 9/10 gCSES because they are expected to do lots of other things as well, and the RE department is fantastic, so many of them opt for RE- which doesn't count towards EBACC.

teacherwith2kids Sat 13-Apr-13 18:21:17

You do have to be very cautious about EBacc as well - it was a retrospectively-applied measure and has quite a restrictive range of subjects, particularly on the 'humanities' side (only history and geography count, not e.g. RE).

So students at a comprehensive school (which will often , through its nature, offer a wide range of courses) who take one of the 'non-included' humanities (which may well be equally academically rigorous, just not included in the magic list) will not get the EBacc even though they have a good range of academic GCSEs IYSWIM?

If everything had remained the same, schools would have got cleverer at playing the EBacc game....goodness knows what will happen with all the shake-ups.

Talkinpeace Sat 13-Apr-13 17:45:02

which says more about Dover than it does about grammar schools!
(I used to live there)

And actually your choice of Comps is not what I'd like to see.
A comp should admit all children.
Not sure how my son would fit into two of your three.

Kings School in Winchester is a true Comp with a massive catchment and managed 65% Ebacc

glaurung Sat 13-Apr-13 17:41:30

Is what you are looking for the relative performance of high achieving pupils at comps vs selectives?

If so:
" Not surprisingly (albeit rather oddly), 89.8% of students in selective schools are classified as ‘above Level 4’, whereas the percentage for comprehensive schools is 31.7%. Selective schools do substantially better on all the measures, especially the EBacc where the percentage of ‘above Level 4’ students achieving this benchmark is double the comprehensive school figure (70.7% against 35.0%). More worryingly, 6.6% of these high-attaining pupils in selective schools are not making the expected progress in English and 4.1% are not doing so in maths. In comprehensive school there is even more cause for concern, with 17.7% falling short of three levels of progress in English and 15.3% doing so in maths."

That's from the 2012 school stats and I found it here. You do have to be a bit cautious of drawing any conclusions about comps failing high ability more than grammars from it though, since high performers at grammars will be a bit skewed towards the upper end of the band (even though some grammars take some middle ability too).

muminlondon Sat 13-Apr-13 17:29:15

Best secondary modern in Kent for high attainers passing Ebacc is one in Dartford: 55% entered/40% achieved. Better than the Dover grammar school.

muminlondon Sat 13-Apr-13 17:19:09

Just having a look at league tables re complacency at grammars. Interesting variation in 2012 Ebacc results if you just concentrate on the high attainers:

(Top) Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar: 100% entered/98% achieved
(Middle) Poole Grammar: 87% entered/74% achieved
(Bottom) Dover Grammar School for Boys: 49% entered/20% achieved

Some Good Comps
Tauheedul Islam Girls: 100% entered/100% achieved
Wembley High Technical College 98% entered/87% achieved
St Alban's Girls 92% entered/91% achieved

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 17:05:40

All schools have room for improvement - but I though we were only talking about results?

And yes, that's my point- grammar+sec mod in one LEA = comprehensive in another as far as results go- but with added divisiveness and general horridity.

glaurung Sat 13-Apr-13 16:57:33

leaving aside whether or not there's room for improvement at grammar schools (I think virtually all schools have massive scope for improvement, and grammars have often been accused of complacency, just getting good results by virtue of selection rather than good teaching, so arguably there is more scope there than anywhere), if the secondary moderns have improved as well as the comprehensives then the differences between the two systems should be broadly the same?

muminlondon Sat 13-Apr-13 16:51:00

camilamoran 'Could the 11+ areas go comprehensive - would that be an act of political will by the county council, and if so would it become impossible once all schools are out of local authority control?'

To be honest, not sure! But David Cameron also described the grammar school debate as 'pointless':

What's a comprehensive anyway? There are huge differences. Academy chains are very like secondary moderns - GCSE pass rates look good, till you take out equivalents (soon to be abolished from the league tables). Theoretically at least, you choose the school rather than the school choosing you. Look at the differences between types of comprehensives for those studying for Ebacc:

Sponsored academy 36%
Community schools (LA maintained) 46%
VA (faith) schools 52%
Academy converters 57% (does include some selectives)
Free schools ???

It's a creeping divide that is supposed to be market-driven. Compare that with:

Secondary Modern 33%
Comprehensive 48%
Selective 84%

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 16:39:37

Because generally speaking there wasn't much room for improvement in grammar schools and there was- and is- at comprehensives and secondary moderns.......

glaurung Sat 13-Apr-13 16:24:39

Why do you think comprehensives have improved more than grammars & sec mods recently seeker?

Any system that penalises one group over another is difficult to justify, so I do tend to agree over 11+, but it's not black & white imo.

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 15:28:52

Glarung- that paper is, as you say, old, and actually doesn't show much of a difference. And the group most disadvantaged by the system is, ironically, poor bright children. And I would imagine that, since that paper was written, the results at grammar schools have remained static while those at comprehensives have improved. So probably the difference is even smaller now.

I am prepared to stick my neck out too, and say that if a couple of kids get a grade lower in their GCSEs, it's a small price to pay to get rid of the hideous divisive awfulness that is the 11+.

creamteas Sat 13-Apr-13 15:15:54

I passed my 11+ an went to a grammar school, it was a disaster for me. I was the only child in my year to go from a huge council estate. You were entered automatically at this time, and had no choice in where you went.

I was ostracised by all my friends who refused to associate with me, and struggled to make friends at the grammar school as I was from the wrong part of town. The isolation and bullying was terrible.

Eventually, I found other working-class kids in the same position in other years and also from the other town grammar school. We pretty much stopped going to school for lessons (just turned up at registration) and spent most of the time hanging out in the cafe at the bus station. The school never chased us, they must have noticed, so I assume they didn't really care if we were there or not.

I went back into education later, but most of my friends didn't. If you look at the research, this was a quite a common outcome for poorer kids who got into grammars.

Talkinpeace Sat 13-Apr-13 15:00:22

Many moons ago I asked the BBC to compile a league table of secondary school results, that only counted the top 60 kids at each school.

The result of which would be that the top streams at comps would be compared with grammars and private schools.

Strangely enough there was never the political will to collect the data in that way.

Because it would of course show that Comps can do a really rather good job with bright kids for much less money and stress

while at the same time doing a pretty good job with the kids that the other schools won't touch.

glaurung Sat 13-Apr-13 14:53:17

I've read that it's the borderline pupils that are most affected by being at a grammar or not (in selective areas) in several places camilamoran, here is one - it's quite old now, so there's probably more recent studies about somewhere.

camilamoran Sat 13-Apr-13 14:16:00

Glaurung - it sounds like you have found the statistics I have been looking for. Where did you find them?

camilamoran Sat 13-Apr-13 14:14:47

scrazy - It doesn't have to happen though. Other comprehensives get plenty of 3 A's at A level - the one my son goes to for starters. It's not an inherent fault in the comprehensive system.

I suspect your local comprehensive is like the one down the road from here, the one I didn't send my kids to. This is a school with mostly working class pupils, which just assumes that they (we) have low expectations and doesn't attempt to challenge that. So bright kids leave this school with fewer qualifications than they should have and - as in your example - have to try to remedy this in further education.

There isn't really a mechanism to fix this. This school is actually very popular, over subscribed, and manages to hit government targets. There are actually better run schools that are further down the league tables. So the only way this school will improve is if a new head happens to take over and happens to want to do something about it.

glaurung Sat 13-Apr-13 14:04:28

It's not exactly the same seeker, only the average is the same. In a grammar system some groups do better (especially the marginal ones who make the grammar) and some do less well (notably the marginal ones who don't make the grammar) than in a comprehensive. The same results overall, does not mean the same results for sub groups, let alone individuals.

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 11:44:55

I haven't read the whole thread, so I'm sorry if I am repeating others.

I think the important thing to remember that in areas which are wholly selective, the results as a whole are exactly the same as a similar LEA with comprehensive schools. If selective education was better, then surely that would not be the case. Yes, the grammar school results are fantastic, and the high achool's underwhelming, but put them together and they are the same as a comprehensive school. Because it is the same children- just with the top set creamed off into another school, with all the social and psychological issues that creates.

Scrazy Sat 13-Apr-13 11:38:39

Re the intelligence over better teaching debate.

2 scenarios, 2 clever DC's getting A's and A stars at gsce, one moves to the grammar 6th form and gets 3 A's at A level, the other stays in the local comp and comes out with 3 B's at A level. These are hard subjects and the comp doesn't get any pupil up to 3 A's at all, even in less academic subjects.

Both go to Uni, do the same course and get similar results. That's why I don't think it's down to intelligence.

It happens to lots of comprehensive bright students, round here anyway.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now